Tahoe residents returning to smoky homes have work to do

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 6:22 PM PDT
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Ca. (KOLO) -South Lake Tahoe dodged a bullet last week. The flames of the Caldor fire slipped past the southern edge of the community, knocking on its backdoor, but thanks to the efforts of firefighters, never entered the neighborhoods.

With most of last week’s evacuation orders lifted, many residents are returning to homes they feared they might not see again. No homes were lost. but every structure in the basin has been invaded by the smoke that choked the area for more than a week. That smell will linger, causing respiratory problems for those who are sensitive. But also contaminating the very structure of the homes and everything in them.

“It will be in your attic most likely,” says Brian Foote, National Account Manager for the property restoration firm Belfor. “Your insulation will be affected. Your HVAC systems may be affected, It will really land on every surface in their home.”

Getting rid of it isn’t as easy as opening a window and airing the place out.

“The problem is as long as you have the source remains you’re still going to have the odor later on and it’s still going to affect the surfaces it lands on. If it sits on surfaces, it can pit glass or metal. It can affect artwork or any surfaces it sits on. So, it’s something that you want to remove as soon as you can.”>

Whether you do the cleaning yourself or leave it to professionals, Foote says, it needs to be addressed, but there’s a few precautions advised.

<Foote: “Vacuuming is great, but it’s got to be a HEPA vac that has a HEPA filter in it so you capture those particles and not just simply stirring them back up into the air. And then if it’s not a porous surface like glass or metal or something you could use a damp cloth and wipe that down and move on to the next step to make sure you don’t have long term damage.”

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